Jared Librarian.jpg
Jared of the Suns of Couros, the Lepidean Librarian, was the former Claviger of the Basilica of Cora Holdfast. They commissioned research into the Speaker for the Dead during the Autumn Equinox 384YE.


During the Autumn Equinox 384YE, the Lepidean Librarian Jared of the Suns of Couros directed the researchers at the University to gather information about the Speaker for the Dead. They specifically wanted them to "reach out and speak to the Free Folk about their inspirational figure of the Speaker for the Dead. Collect what stories and evidence you can find so the Synod can properly assess the virtue of this figure."

The Speaker is one of four alleged historical figures that the so-called Free Folk (former Asavean slaves who escaped to the Empire during the short-lived civil war) believe to be paragons. These four paragons are fairly controversial, being grouped together by the Free Folk into a "divine family". While on the surface being enthusiastic students of the Way, the Free Folk have some unfamiliar ideas about their paragons, and their ability to intervene in the mortal world. These documents are as much an examination of those beliefs as they are a collection of stories gathered from the Free Folk themselves.

The document was prepared by Amos of Final Vigilance, is quite thorough, and is presented in a slightly archaic academic style with plenty of footnotes. It also includes two arguments - one in favour of the Speaker as an inspiration, one opposed, using a debating style popular among some Highborn theologians.


We, the undersigned Highborn, present this report to Jared, esteemed librarian of the Lepidean University, on behalf of our faculty.

Human destiny lies in its stories - Virtuous deeds ring true across time, place and culture, ever-growing in their retelling. It is the sign of Inspiration that a Paragon’s stories inspire those they touch across the journeys of their soul and beyond - this is the power of legend: to be the wings that carry the truth of the Way where Legacy cannot, to be the news that Salvation is possible.

This report is concerned almost exclusively with the story and the weight of words. It is an excision of the mundane bindings of language, history and tawdry ‘truths’ to seek evidence for the arc of destiny in what is left - to conjure a facsimile of a soul from shaped air and passion and then hold it to account. We, the aforementioned, have travelled the Empire and beyond through this past changing of the year so that this phantom is called up as whole as is possible - taking a varied testimony from every sort of person and applying a Highborn’s scrutiny.

Our journey has challenged our Virtue in its discoveries: where does Vigilance end and Wisdom begin? How can the infinity of paths to Virtue ever be mapped - and should they? It has been a rewarding journey in reaffirming the importance and transformative power of the Way - but it has also been one where answers are elusive and a firm, comfortable conclusion denied.


The ‘Speaker for the Dead’ is one of several mythical figures of great importance to a population of foreigners residing within the Empire. These ‘Free Folk’ 1are adherents of the Way, though the Synod has sought to clarify and scrutinise the degree with which this aligns to Imperial doctrine2. This scrutiny arises from the role this figure plays in their experience of the Way: dubbed a ‘Divine’ and treated in a worshipful manner, the Folk have sought to elevate them and other ‘Divinities’ to equal footing in Virtue to the Paragons.

Further claims - that the Speaker is responsible for direct intervention in the daily lives of the Free Folk through ‘miracles’ and that belief, prayer and making offerings to them brings one closer to Virtue - have exacerbated concerns around blasphemy, idolatry and heresy. Concerns that have led to the aforementioned scrutiny of their practices across the Empire. For their part, the Free Folk have openly sought to have this figure - and others like them - be recognised as a Paragon through the means recognized by the Way.

Such a recognition - as a Paragon or even as an Exemplar - would have manifold implications for the manner in which the Synod and by extension the Way understands these stations - the highest in the faith: Virtue embodied in human form. Sumaah Exemplars and Paragons have been a case long-championed by Universalists, but impeded by matters that some quarters might argue were more grounded in politics than faith - the consequences of recognition of a Paragon or Exemplar whose lives have chiefly been experienced far from the legacy of the First Empress in the Asavean Empire - would naturally have a disruptive impact on this debate.

Setting aside the matter of Recognition, determining the relative beneficence or maleficence of the Speaker will ultimately contribute to settling uncertainty within the Synod as to how the synoecism of the Free Folk’s beliefs - and others like them - should be regarded both now and in the future.

This report will examine what knowledge is available regarding this figure as expressed through the stories told about them. It will outline prevailing themes and content of those stories and assess the impact this figure has had upon the souls of those it has touched: What has the Speaker inspired these Free Folk to do? What place does the Speaker have in the future of the Empire? How might wider understanding or exposure of the Empire to the Speaker impact the ultimate objective of Human Destiny?

It is beyond such a report as this to deliver a conclusion as to whether the Speaker of the Dead is an Exemplar or Paragon - nor would such interference in a matter of the Synod be tolerable. It is equally of no benefit for it to merely report a biography of who the Speaker was or was not. Instead, the implications posed by- and impact produced from what is discovered will be presented for the reader’s ultimate discretion.

1 See appendix A for more detail on the origins of these individuals.
2 Including 384YE Spring j199, j134, Summer j102, j110, j113, j124, j146, Autumn j60, j100, j103, j108, j111 and j127.


This report consists almost solely of conversations committed to paper. The primary sources of the knowledge collected are individuals denied Prosperity. Thus there are no relics nor scribed histories to draw upon: solely that carried by word of mouth and tradition in the face of adversity.

The majority of these conversations were spiritual and verbal interrogations of nearly fifty Free Folk residing within the territories of Highguard and Dawn. This was supplemented by correspondence, verbal and written, with Imperial citizens from these same territories, with a particular emphasis on collecting the assessment of priests who had directly interacted with the Free Folk. This was coupled with written material created by the Free Folk for circulation within the Empire.3

Opportunities arose after the Autumn Equinox for representatives of the university to interrogate those Asasvean slaves freed during the raid on Chalonsio4 as they were ferried, post-emancipation to the Sumaah Republic. Further testimony on the spiritual health of these people were provided by Sumaah priests of the Way through Imperial interlocutors. In these instances, it is notable that many of this population had no experience of the Way - a matter explored in the discussion of this report.

Once collected, these materials were poured over for commonalities that define the Speaker’s life or lives. Attention will be paid to any unifying themes that typify deviations or inconsistencies in how the Speaker is experienced by those who know them.

These themes will be regarded in terms of how they have shaped the destiny of those they have touched, the actions that they have instilled in those who have been influenced by those signs and the legacy that can be said to be evoked by their story.

As an afterward on this analysis, two competing statements on the nature of the Speaker shall be provided - not as a conclusion, but as a call to further action.

3 Pamphlets produced by hand have been circulated within the Empire since summer 384YE. A copy of three relating to individual ‘divines’ and a supplementary pamphlet considering them against the signs of Paragon and Exemplar are provided with this document.
4Working with the Sumaah, more than eighty warbands and nearly two hundred fleets struck at the slaving market of Chalonsio - an island under Asavean hegemony.


On the Speaker’s Physical Form

Initial investigations struggled to define the Speaker as a singular figure. Initially contacted Imperial citizens in Astolat offered no cohesive opinion on the Speaker’s gender, age or appearance. Sometimes these elements were not present in the narrative at all and only hypotheticals were offered under direct questioning. This inconsistency, while inconsequential overall, was discovered to have its root in the Free Folk’s predisposition to ‘worship’ of the ‘divines’ (and Imperial Paragons) directly - in a manner that, as previously mentioned, was initially interpreted as idolatrous in its apparent tying of the Folk’s spiritual destiny to what could be read as non-human entities.

By leaving offerings to effigies to these figures, seeking their aid in the pursuit of Virtue through private conversation and beseeching them in times of difficulty for an example to follow, the Free Folk (by their own open, eager explanation) claim to build and share in a relationship with the ‘divine’ akin to that of a beloved family member. Indeed, this extends to the mode of (uniformly effusive) speech used to describe these figures; one researcher described the relationship as “as fathers, mothers, brothers or sisters striving for the Way in a country both infinitely far away, yet close enough to hear them”.5

This, it was determined, was why Speaker’s appearance changed with each retelling: in each story, the Speaker became the idealised family member that they represented to the narrator.

5 Amos of Watcher’s Rest, Casinea - correspondence from Necropolis.

Within the Empire

The Free Folk recount a cohesive set of myths when describing the Speaker. These closely matched a pamphlet on their life circulated recently by newly-literate members of their number. Thus, recounting the various variations of the Speaker’s tale will start with their version and this will be used as a yardstick to which others may be compared.

This central story involves a figure who lived ‘many lifetimes ago’ in a place that may have been Marracossa6,7. A slave, the Speaker’s appearance, gender and age was initially difficult to discern - a matter discussed later - but ultimately these details have been lost to time - and, in a manner similar to the story of the Marked, this anonymity is at the heart of the example the Folk derive from the Speaker’s story.

Through a life of hardship it is claimed that the Speaker attained insight into the spiritual evils of slavery: their later exploits arise from these revelations on how the bound are robbed of Pride, history and, as one respondent phrased it ‘spiritually amputated’ - denied a legacy - their names and actions doomed to be forgotten by the cruelty of captivity.

The act that would come to define the Speaker - the recounting of the name and stories of kinfolk killed or torn away from their families8 is an act of defiance the Speaker undertakes on behalf of their community: saving them from final dissolution at the hands of those who enslave them. It is claimed that they were unerring in their ability to maintain this perpetual mantra. A minority of those interrogated claimed that this persisted even into sleep: that the litany of the dead was an outpouring that worldly bindings9 could not stem.

From this beginning, the Speaker’s actions spread to their community; More and more who experienced the Speaker’s dedication carried the practice to other estates and settlements across Asavea. These records would then be recounted each year on the Winter Solstice10: the lives of those who had died in the previous year being preserved in a festival known as ‘La Auskultado’ or ‘The Listening’. Many secondary tales revolve around this celebration - Appendix B details a collection. Core elements of these stories relate to inspiration - participants being inspired by the example of their forebears to face and overcome adversity and weather hardships; revealed knowledge - the seemingly spontaneous recollection of details regarding those whose fates are unknown and community - a impassioned sense of shared Pride roused by the stories of the dead.

The story continues with the discovery of ‘The Listening’ by what is described as either the head of the estate to which the Speaker was bound, or a favoured member of that estate’s household. Whomever the interloper is, they are too affected by ‘The Listening’ and are driven into a paroxysm of fury and fear at the manifestation of Pride11 they witness in the gathered underclass. A consistent element is that there is some element of power and force in the Speaker’s words: some described it as the Speaker talking with a thousand voices (“the voices of the dead”12), others allude to some supernatural ‘truth’13 that allowed the words to physically agonise those who would deny them. Where loved ones of the household’s head played the part of the interloper, they are almost always driven to renounce the evils of slavery, or to destroy themselves in grief - thus ultimately bringing about the wrath of the slaver.

This wrath - culminating in the murder of the Speaker at the hands of one of Asavea’s priesthoods, or the master of the household themselves - is, in two thirds of the Free Folk narratives, enacted immediately. Here, the master’s fear and loathing drives them into a rage: either by their own hand or at their urging by attending guards. Where the murder is not immediate - the Speaker is subjected to torture serving to symbolise the strength of their convictions while damning the character of the torturers. Where torture is present in the narrative, all involved the severing of the Speaker’s tongue. Less frequent violences included blinding and behanding. A minority reported that despite these mutilations, the Speaker could still speak their truth, could still behold the cowardice of the slavers or still point an accusatory finger at those who would deny their Pride.

Whether immediate or delayed, the Speaker dies in every version of the tale: this is a constant across all narratives. All retellings also state that the Speaker was sacrificed upon the altar of a false god of Asavea14 - either being killed there upon, or having their body offered there post-mortem.

The story goes on to describe the influence of the Speaker beyond death: in their inspiration of those who survived them to continue their spiritual labour in remembering the dead and the lives they led, the continuation of the festival of ‘the Listening’ and even some degree of ‘presence’ at the Winter Solstice. As previously described, this night is associated with many of what the Free Folk name ‘miracles’; much of these events seem to have their origins in the first ‘Listening’ held on the anniversary of the Speaker’s death: here, all assembled were said to have spoken with the Speaker’s voice - finding the toil of memory and the hardships of life lifted. In some retellings these are figurative or ambiguous happenings - in others, they are literal and it is believed that the Speaker directly manifested amidst the festival. Unlike other patterns of such supernatural occurrences in this tale15 - belief in the literal events was more prominent here.

The ultimate fate of the Speaker’s master and the god that the Speaker was sacrificed to is a final element in the tale - though is commonly relegated to a dramatic footnote in oral accounts. Where the Speaker and their sacrifice goes on to be remembered, those who conspired to end their life are forgotten - often this is implied to be wrought by the passage of time, but the majority assert that this was caused by, or the direct result of the Speaker and their death. Common embellishments involve names being lost to those who knew them and written accounts fading from the page.

6 Where a more specific location was given it tended to be subdivisions of Maraccossa of particular importance to the one recounting the tale.
7 The second most common region described as being the place of the Speaker’s origin was Nemoria. A small number suggested that perhaps the Speaker was a missionary from Highguard itself.
8 Discussion with experts on Asavean practice suggests that transplanting groups of slaves is a common occurrence when managing ‘unskilled’ labourers.
9 Later in the myths, even when gagged or (more rarely) their tongue is cut from them, their voice remains as clear and unerring as ever.
10 The annual ‘dismissal’ of slaves in certain Asavean satrapies has been corroborated with traders and the Winter Solstace has been described as significant by those familiar with the idolatrous practices of those islands.
11 The term ‘Pride’ is used in the story by-on-large by those who have been exposed to the Way. In other retellings themes that align with the Virtue are found: the slave’s unabashed embracing of their struggles, the inspiration of the Speaker and the sustaining of culture are all prominent.
12 This claim was made by roughly a dozen of the Free Folk - but was more prominent in Chalonsio-derived narratives.
13 This concept of ‘truth’ appears frequently in supplementary discussion with the Free Folk and plays a comparable role to the Freeborn emphasis on honesty, or our own Highborn concept of certainty.
14 Despite being common in rumour and popular stories, primary sources on the prevalence of human sacrifice by idolaters is rare. The value of such stories is of course self-evident.
15 It was found that retellings where the Speaker is ascribed powers beyond the average human that other supernatural elements were likely. Where the story is believed to be allegorical or to contain symbolic language, supernatural elements are less common. This pattern followed in narratives collected from beyond the Empire.

Beyond the Empire

Beyond the boundaries of the Empire a greater variety in retelling was encountered. Indeed, even the Speaker’s name changed noticeably with ultimate origins of the emancipated peoples interviewed - sometimes even within groups with a common home. Investigations that might have otherwise been vexatious due to Asavea’s variety of dialects and related tongues, was made easier by many of those interrogated being fluent in the form of Asavean spoken by the Free Folk.17

Alongside the Free Folk’s ‘La Parolanto por la Mortintoj’, a selection of the sobriquets encountered include:

  • “La Memoranto” - ‘The Rememberer’.
  • “L'oratore dei morti” - ‘Speaker for the Dead’.
  • “Hildakoen zaintzailea” - ‘Guardian of the Dead’.

Of all the emancipated Chalonsian slaves, perhaps a fifth professed no knowledge of any figure or stories that could not be linked in theme or concept to the Speaker. This number includes situations where the investigator determined that some unrelated entity was being described by the interrogee17. Another fifth admitted only passing knowledge of the Speaker but were able to describe common elements of their story. The remaining three fifths proclaimed to be familiar with the Speaker and were able to recount both their story and various ‘miracles’ or associated legends about them.

Following the outline of the Speaker’s core tale as established in the last section, what follows are points where the narratives provided by interrogees from Chalonsio noticeably vary from those described by Free Folk. Overall, there is an increased tendency towards the supernatural - events described as magical or plot elements that seem fanciful or mythical in nature.

The birthplace, gender and appearance of the Speaker followed a similar pattern to that reported within the Empire: the majority claimed the Speaker was a Nemorian slave, but those who were more specifically stated locations with some personal relevance to themselves (a home state or region). Marracossa, while mentioned by some with no ties to the islands, was no more represented than other satrapies of Asavea.

A distinct theme in the retellings of ‘the Listening’ related to the witnessing of the past either in dreams subsequent to celebration, or - in the rarest cases - during the celebration itself. In none of the cases recorded did the interviewee claim themselves to have experienced such a vision - these were always retold events of an earlier generation. The truth of this vision is either assumed as a given or corroborated by some subsequent happening.

Some versions of the discovery of the Speaker leading their people in ‘The Listening’ were notable for for identifying the interloper as a manifestation of one of Asavea’s false gods who arrive in human form to tamper with the Speaker’s destiny out of some divine drama or as a twist of fate. This direct intervention by a ‘god’ occurred a dozen times, but very little of the ensuing tales shared much in common, with these outliers only reuniting with the majority narrative upon the death of the Speaker.

Where ‘gods’ are not evoked, many narratives describing the provocations that mundane interlopers are subjected to describe ‘phantasms’ that rush, unmourned from ‘beyond’18 to seize or assail the listening slaver, more directly forcing them to face their wicked acts. It is notable that narratives where a relation of the Speaker’s owner is the interloper and comes to some lasting harm for their crimes is more prominent among the Chalonsio retellings. Echoing the injuries that shall eventually be inflicted on the Speaker, the uninvited guest to the Listening is often struck mute or rendered blind; as equally prominent are seemingly spiritual injuries - the victim being robbed of the memories of their loved ones, or driven from their comfortable life by a need for redemption.19

17 These instances were identified as outliers (lacking any overlap with other responses) or for their similarity to the Asavean ‘God of the Dead’ in description of ritual.
18 This ‘beyond’ covers what appear to be many beliefs about the fate of the human spirit found in the Asavean sphere. While none interviewed who had exposure to the Way described narratives involving spirits manifesting in revenge, it is notable that elsewhere the Labyrinth took the place of these ‘Beyonds’.
19 When described, ‘redemption’ mostly involves wandering as a pauper, emphasising the stark contrast to their former ‘noble’ lifestyle. Even when not explicitly stated, the interloper’s fate revolves around a spiritual absence. When questioned as to what this is, narrators stated a range of things from ‘pride’ and ‘humanity’ to ‘humility’ and ‘decency’.


Examination of the stories of the Free Folk has revealed a population of passionate people, driven by their beliefs. Their experience of the Way appears to be an earnestly held core of these beliefs and has undoubtedly shaped their lives and for better or worse, the destiny of their souls. Within the Empire, the Free Folk have been enthusiastic students of the Imperial Way - an appetite stoked by the Speaker and other entities like it, which of course bodes well for their spiritual health. However, they have equally been unwilling to set aside those beliefs with no basis in Imperial Orthodoxy: this unwillingness to join the Empire as citizens, or set aside unrecognised Paragons - even in the face of sanction - also speaks of a Pride derived from the Speaker and their stories.

What follows is a brief consideration of the ‘miracles’ that frequently arose during the investigation: the so-called ‘interventionism’ of the Divines; this is then followed by a final discussion on the Speaker’s story as an Inspiration to the Free Folk.

Interventions and Miracles

From the first Auskultado, where the Speaker’s voice was said to have been heard clearly, guiding their kin in their recitation of the dead, to the revelatory stories described in appendix B and even the spontaneous development of a hallowing20 in winter 383YE: the Free Folk claim these happenings are direct actions (‘miracles’) of the Speaker - a (supposed) paragon spirit that has escaped the Labyrinth.

Miracles performed within the lifetime of a Paragon are a subject of rigorous debate within the Synod - of those performed beyond transcendence however, no history of study exists. On this topic the Doctrines are also silent: while the Doctrine of The Paragons states a paragon spirit is “capable of freeing itself from the Labyrinth of Ages through transcendence” and the Doctrine of the Labyrinth asserts that “only that which is of spirit may traverse into and out of [the Labyrinth of Ages]” - the Synod cannot comment on the nature of transcendence, nor what is possible in that which lies beyond it as these are “beyond the true comprehension of any but a paragon”. Matters that do not directly contradict the doctrine then, must be considered in terms of their impact on the ultimate destiny of humanity - what effect might belief in Paragons as active agents in our day to day lives have on the vigour of the Way?

The attributing of supernatural happenings to unseen actors is a common element of idolatrous religions based upon the actions of false gods. It could be assessed that these themes are suppressed in the Empire by the Way’s emphasis on personal Virtue and individual action: that these are wards against pernicious faith in external forces. It is a natural conclusion then, to say that stories that erode this insulation may make the Way vulnerable to deists - that action that is ‘beyond true comprehension’ might be a banner under which inhuman actors might masquerade.

However, the belief in these miracles has manifested itself in the Free Folk as a source of spiritual strength: a constant seeking of Virtue in even the smallest sensations of day to day life. The world, its challenges and experiences are, to the Free Folk, things to be sifted through critically for signs of the Divine. It may be that this critical eye, and a drive for spiritual literacy with which to apply it, is a more active Vigilance against subversive spiritual influence.

Ultimately, it is this report’s opinion that the transfiguration of the Paragon’s example into a direct presence and driving force in the Free Folk’s lives is worth consideration and further investigation - with a proper caution and consideration.

20Interrogation of Free Folk and Imperial Priests in attendance at Anvil seem to indicate that the Free Folk participated in the Highguard Day of the Dead procession before retiring to an area in the Dawnish camp to perform an Auskultado: during the recounting of those who had died during the Folk’s journey to the Empire, a ‘presence’ was felt and thereafter it was found that the Effigy bore a distinct spiritual effect - though one that was described as being of Pride.

The Speaker as an Inspiration

The Speaker’s lessons on the evils of Slavery - their recognition of the wider harm that the denuding of a people from their history, their family and even their names inflicts - is a narrative that is at home with Imperial thinking on the spiritual impetus towards universal emancipation: that slavery seeks to deny the enslaved their virtue and impede the ultimate destiny of humanity. It is distinct, however, in that it directly addresses the lasting injury that bondage imparts on the bound - that in being forgotten the examples of those who have come before cannot inspire those who come after.

The Speaker’s rebellion, when set against the example of the Marked, seems meagre and easily dismissed: remembrance, even at the scale attributed to the Speaker, did not drive the Speaker’s peers to the dissolution of the Oppressors. The resilience and widespread practice of the Auskultado into the present day, while remarkable in one sense, has not led to uprising or self-emancipation in Marracossa, Chalonsio or elsewhere in Asavea. When considered in these terms, the Speaker’s example as a motivator for action seems anaemic and of little impact.

This reading is perhaps confusing physical action with spiritual impact: the Marked’s actions of Loyalty created a freedom in which the spirits of the freed could find and prosper in Virtue; this is a lens under which the Speaker can also be viewed: that through their protest and unwavering example they inspired the Auskultado - a means of showing their people what was being robbed for them and providing the framework for reclaiming it. When interpreted in this way the Speaker is an example of how it is not the scale of the action that is important - but the Virtue driving the action.

The Free Folk’s accounts of the paths they have taken to freedom, have featured Pride prominently: it is a Pride that drives their current insistence for acceptance and the notable cohesion of their faith in the face of sanction and scrutiny. A common phrase in those interrogated was that “The Way made them free” - and key to the Free Folk’s belief in the way are the Divines: indeed, the effusive attitude of the Free Folk in sharing their beliefs and embodying their Pride cannot be ignored - it is an enthusiasm and certainty tied to each Divine, with the Speaker being of particular prominence due to recent history of war and loss.

Finally, the spontaneous hallowing of an effigy of the Speaker during the Winter Solstice 383YE cannot be ignored: though it could not be acquired for proper study, those priests who have come into contact with it attest to it being a unique spiritual manifestation of Pride - manifested by those whose understanding of Pride is shaped by the Speaker.

That the stories of the Speaker have driven the enslaved to the Empire - bringing them to visit Necropolis and study the Way - is self-evident. It is the opinion of this report that the potential for the Speaker to inspire others in foreign lands to make the same journey cannot be ignored.


The following attached letters are offered in place of a conclusion with regards to the Speaker’s status as a Paragon. Each is the product of priests taking opposing conclusions on what the Speaker might represent for the Empire. Neither is endorsed as conclusive by this report - they are provided as a call to action - whatever that action may be:

The Argument For the Speaker

I, Elisheva, daughter of Maayan, set down these words on behalf of those who support the claim of the Speaker Of The Dead to Paragonhood.

Most of us, in our youth, told tall tales of our exploits to our fellows. Perhaps we spoke of drinking our parents’ beer, or of travelling long distances without an escort, or of having seen strange and mysterious monsters in the darkness. Some, though old enough to know better, tell such tall tales as adults. They spin stories of their deeds on the battlefield, or of their acumen in commerce, or they pass off the learning of others as their own. Lies follow us wherever we go, in defiance of Virtue. It is one of the failings of imperfect beings.

Why do we bring this up? Because who among us remember now the foolish stories we told as children? And the liars and deceivers who walk among us as adults, how long do these stories last? The truth will out, as the Wise among us know. Then what? The foolish vainglory of those who sought a facsimile of pride rather than its true form fades quickly, leaving behind only shame and a long, hard road to redemption. The truth inspires in the way that lies simply do not.

The Inspiration that tales of the Speaker Of The Dead bring to the Free Folk is plain to see. It pervades every aspect of their lives. To these people, their Paragons are not distant, abstract figures, but constant presences in their lives. They are guided to greater Virtue by the stories they tell and the lessons they learn from them. This is indisputable. They may be short of biographical details, dates and times and places and the other things that Torchbearers like to catalogue, but if this is to be a step too far, then we trust that the Synod will soon strip Tian, Kethry, and the Marked of their status as Paragons, and in doing so remain consistent.

Simply put, the Speaker Of The Dead helped the Free Folk keep their faith in the darkest of times. No lie has that kind of power. We trust that the Synod will see the truth of this.

The Argument Against the Speaker

I, Menahem, child of Arieh, set down these words on behalf of those who oppose the claim of the Speaker Of The Dead to Paragonhood.

Firstly, we wish to say that we are not unsympathetic to the Free Folk and their case. Our conclusions were not easily reached, and long, difficult debates have preceded these writings. Even now, we turn in Wisdom to the Synod to make the final judgements about the matters that we raise. Nonetheless, it would be cowardly to sit in silence while our concerns go unaddressed.

On the surface, the case that the Free Folk bring seems to fit in neatly with the canon of older tales of the Paragons, such as Kethry, the Marked, and the Sentinel. There is precedent within the Way of acknowledging Paragons and Exemplars based on the Inspiration they provide and the Legacy that they have left behind, taking such matters as being of more import than a dry catalogue of times, dates and places. Were this the only issue, we would welcome the discovery of more expressions of humanity’s true potential and the universal nature of Virtue. But, as you may gather, it is not the only issue.

The matter of Interventionism has been noted from the moment the Free Folk set foot on Imperial soil. It pervades every aspect of their lives, and it pervades every aspect of their tales. As far as these worthy folk are concerned, their Paragons have an active influence on our world from whatever place they occupy beyond the Labyrinth. They tell tales of the lives of their Paragons, but just as much do they tell tales of the contact that they themselves have had with the Paragons. They talk about prophetic dreams that guide them to new understanding. They talk about strokes of good fortune, set in their path by the Divine Family. They talk of a sense of closeness to Speaker Of The Dead, and Truthful Aleksiso, and the Sun Queen. Without these stories, there is no case to be made for these Paragons.

We do not call the Free Folk heretics. It is clearly established that Doctrine does not specifically contradict these claims. But neither does Doctrine endorse these claims, and to make these judgements in such a theological grey area is hazardous indeed. To recognise these Paragons is to allow Interventionism into the Way by the back door, to tacitly endorse it without scrutiny or debate. We cannot in good conscience endorse this.


A - The Free Folk:

(The following has been assembled from notes collected during the primary investigation of this report.)

The ‘Free Folk’ are former slaves from the Asavean satrapy of Marracossa who, in 383YE, were emancipated in exchange for military service during the ill-fated rebellion of the territory. Evacuated on Imperial ships in 383YE, they arrived in the Empire and have since been abroad within its borders.

There are between 200 to 300 Free Folk living between the length and breadth of the Empire according to a census21 taken shortly after their arrival upon Imperial soil. The majority of their number, estimated at just shy of 10022 are found in Caer Faucon, Astolat near the House of the Proffered Hand. Another notable population, estimated at 8023 are located in Upwold. The rest are abroad, with letters and reportage mentioning small travelling groups as far as Skarsind24 and Redoubt25.

The Free Folk are notable for their faith: being products of Sumaah and Imperial missions into Asavea, they are foreigners who have inherited a belief in the Way from parents who have often kept that religion alive through an oral tradition that exists cut-off from the Synod. Without a consistent connection with Imperial Orthodoxy, converts won by missionaries have been left to guide their own learning and spiritual development without liao or priestly techniques. This has given rise to a system of beliefs that shares much with the Way, but also diverges in a number of distinct ways.

Most notable are beliefs regarding ‘The Divine Family’: a collection of figures who exist beyond the ‘Labyrinth of Return’ (cast here as a spiritual mirror of the world where the Virtuous are tested). These figures are both worshipped as individuals or amalgams of the Virtue that they represent and are believed to, at particular times of year or under certain circumstances, directly act in the affairs of believers - creating miracles. They are worshipped through tithing, prayer and ceremony.

21 Records held in Free Landing, Madruga.
22 Records kept by the House of the Proffered Hand, Astolat.
23 Count held by Mark Feltdown of Ashbrook, Upwold.
24 Correspondence with Irontide Telnel, Gildenheim.
25 Correspondence with Jalnen Opalspire, Limus.

Within the Empire, the Free Folk have, as-yet, not undertaken the oath of citizenship, nor bound themselves to a nation by Egregore, despite living and participating in Imperial society for the last two years. During this time they have consistently and uniformly applied themselves to physical labour and unskilled trades in the pursuit of Prosperity.

Itinerant, the Folk are also notable for their interest in travel, their wages being, by on large, used to support movement around the Empire. Another use of their finances is in ‘tithing’ to sites associated with Paragons and Emperors: leaving flowers, decorations or just coins at the feet of statuary or around the atria of tombs.

B - Stories from Historical Listenings

A dying participant of the Listening, having lost hope, was struck mute when they sought to add their name to the litany of the dead: being struck with a paralytic sense of Pride at the struggles of their kin, they awoke at the next dawn miraculously healed.

A participant of an Auskultado witnessed the night that the Speaker was discovered and executed as they dreamt.

An orphaned participant of a Listening is said to have spontaneously recalled his mother’s name and story, learning the name she had intended for them.

An extended family, separated against their will during a time of plague, discovered the fate of their loved ones when they were moved by some unknown force to speak about them at a Listening. It is said that news arrived a few days later matching their account.

A slave, separated from their partner year after year by their enslavement was sustained each year by a vision of them alive and healthy on the eve of the Auskultado that assured them that their name was not to be added to the litany of the lost.

At one Listening, participants found themselves speaking of ancestors they had never known - learning of their shared struggle and endeavour, those assembled felt their spirits stoked by a Pride.

C - Wise Taylor

Wise Taylor (or Tailor), referred to as Saja Tajlora by the Free Folk, is described as a Divine of Wisdom. She is of particular interest among the various Divines described during this investigation because she appears to be the most historical and her impact on the Free Folk seems to be more measurable or at least quantifiable.

Tajlora is historical in the sense that the place of her birth was almost always reported as Marracossa - more specifically the temple of the Asavean god of slavery. Slave attendants of this priesthood are still known in the present day and the duties and standing of these attendants match the details recounted of Tajlora’s life.

The dialect of Asavean spoken by the enslaved people of the archipelago is said to have been created by Tajlora, to bridge the gaps between the different populations of slaves she encountered during her travels with the priesthood to which she was bound. The dialect is dismissed as a pidgin or blend of other Asavean tongues by local experts, but Imperial study has revealed particular linguistic regularities that might suggest it does not have ‘natural’ origins, which would support the claim that it was produced by Tajlora herself.

As well as efforts in language, it is said that Tajlora spread knowledge of midwifery and curatives, developing an understanding of the whole by gathering the small fragments she was permitted to understand. That various sobriquets attested to Tajlora have been found attached to healing herbs from different regions of Asavea is also of interest.

Primary sources on Saja Tajlora constitute one of the three pamphlets on the Divines provided by the Free Folk.

Further Reading

Freefolk Pamphlets

These are little pamphlets created by some of the Free Folk that tell tales of their "Divine Family"